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Epiphany on Twelfth Night - becoming greater than everything we feared


Experiencing the epiphany of snow for the first time.

In Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, there is confusion and dismay before all disguises finally fall to the stage. Those who have been concealed are revealed, and they become greater than everything they feared in a joyous epiphany.

Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany, is traditionally a time for things that have been concealed to be revealed. Alfred the Great had the beginning of a momentous epiphany on Twelfth Night when Vikings attacked his court and he was driven out into the snow, fleeing for his life with his wife and small children. His epiphany could have ended there, in disaster. But he was open to further revelations.


Alfred's life was brilliant with epiphanies. His willingness to learn from them and his courage in meeting disaster transformed his country.

In Shakespeare's Tempest, there are many revelations. The passengers of Alonso's ship absorb new insights after they are shipwrecked on Prospero's island. None of them is "his own" person on arrival. In responding to the epiphanies of crisis and illusion, each is challenged, and some find moral and intellectual renewal.

There is, as well, a renewed sense of nature. The wedding celebration in the Tempest's fourth act "shows the meeting of a fertile earth and a gracious sky" (Northrup Frye). Fertile because men and women care for the Earth!


At the end of the Tempest, Miranda cries,

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in 't!

O, wonder! That Shakespeare, who had known so many people, should remain so positive about us in his last play. We live in a world which has managed to taint even the phrase brave new world. Yet I believe that each of you reading this hopes to see people as Miranda and Shakespeare did. And seeing the world's 'goodly creatures' wants to cherish them and nurture their happiness.

That is an epiphany worth having any night.

Comments (1)


An uplifting piece, very welcome on this fine, cold day.

Amen to all you said and for the Bard's incredible perceptiveness.

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